Experts unhappy with design of 'Hiyaa' flats

The Architecture Association of Maldives, AAM have expressed concern over the design of the towers and flats developed under social housing scheme, ‘Hiyaa’ project,

The former administration initiated the Hiyaa housing project to build 7,000 flats to be leased at affordable prices for those in need of housing in capital Male’. The design of the buildings is heavily criticized by the present government.

A report prepared on the building structure and design by AAM noted that the design could potentially fail. The flats were inspected and assessed by 9 members of the association and 18 students studying architecture, and the report made on their findings noted that safety of the residents of the buildings could be compromised due to congested living conditions and disregard for other safety hazards.

In their report, AAM noted that over 40,000 residents are expected to live in the towers, and pointed out that the close quarters and inadequate space in apartments could lead to social, health and safety issues.

While no playgrounds, exercise facilities or parks are located nearby, a design that includes plans for such recreational facilities would have minimized health issues, the report noted. The lack of such spaces could negatively impact the health of those living in the towers, the report said.

Noting issues with the building structure and design, AAM wrote that the railings in corridors of the towers did not meet the standards of the Hulhumale’ Planning and Development Guideline. While the railings are installed at a height of approximately two feet, it would pose danger to children who may climb on the surrounding wall, the report noted.

The report further said service pipes are not properly installed underneath the beams in the building’s basement, and some pipes are placed dangerously low. The proper signage is not displayed, and the amount of parking space required to be made available under the Hulhumale’ Planning and Development Guideline is unlikely to be met.

While each tower has 16 housing units on each floor, the building has only three elevators, each with the capacity to hold only 14 people, the report noted. This would be problematic during peak hours and residents will face difficulties due to lack of adequate number of elevators, said AAM.

Further noting that some service boxes are within reach on the elevator lobby, the items are likely to get damaged. Furthermore, there are no means to collect garbage on any of the floors, the report said.

While a window in the living room of most apartments, and the only window of one bedroom faces the outer corridor of the building, both windows are at a height of about 3 ft from the floor, and pose security risks, said AAM. The sliding windows of the units are installed on two tracks and divided into three doors, which in turn minimizes the area that can be opened. Additionally, while the kitchen and dining area of all apartments are integrated, the kitchen space is smaller than standard sizes.

The report prepared by AAM warned that special fire and smoke resistant zones were absent in the towers. No designated separations for fire safety are present in the lift lobbies, also noted AAM.

If the lower floors of a tower catches on fire, Maldives does not have the resources to prevent it from reaching upper floors, said the report. Residential permits must be given only after establishing a proper fire prevention system, said AAM.

While the Hulhumale’ Planning and Development Guideline instructs to ensure the safety and security of the building and its residents, no security system is established at the buildings, it further said.

Many of the issues highlighted in the report can still be fixed, said AAM, urging authorities to take the steps before residents move into the buildings.